VCU School of Dentistry's Give Kids A Smile Day. The event is part of program which provides pediatric dental care to low-income families. (Photo courtesy of Virginia Commonwealth University)
Children from low income families in the commonwealth will soon have greater access to quality dental care from Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Dentistry, courtesy of a $2.4 million grant.
The federal funding will be used to buy some high tech gadgets and to pay for a new curriculum and expand a pediatric dental residency program at the Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU and at the Piedmont Regional Dental Center in Orange, the university announced on Tuesday.
The five-year grant is from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration of the Department of Health and Human Services.
About half of low-income children in Virginia receive no dental care, according to Tegwyn Brickhouse, department chair for the dentistry school’s pediatric dentistry.
She said by email on Wednesday that many are preschoolers.
“I don't have an exact percentage of children who don't get treatment of their tooth decay, but if untreated it leads to pain, infections, and sometimes death,” he wrote.
Preventative care can head of expensive surgeries and treatments.
Brickhouse noted that 3,311 children from low income Virginia families received dental treatment in a hospital setting in 2014. That cost $8.5 million.
“Just focusing on low-income children, with 600,000 enrolled in Medicaid, if 25 percent has untreated decay, that means approximately 150,000 kids with untreated tooth decay. Preventive dental treatments such as fluoride varnish can reduce the amount of tooth decay in high-risk children by 50 percent,” she wrote.